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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onIslands: Spits­ber­gen & Co.Spits­ber­gen (Nor­t­hern part) → Dan­s­køya, Ams­ter­damøya, Mag­da­le­nefjord

Danskøya - Amsterdamøya - Magdalenefjord

Map: Danskøya - Amsterdamøya - Magdalenefjord

Gene­ral: Part of Spits­ber­gen with spec­ta­cu­lar land­scape and inte­res­t­ing histo­ry. A num­ber of bays, fjords and islands crea­tes a varied mosaic. The area is fre­quent­ly visi­ted by crui­se ships, with lar­ger ones visi­ting main­ly the Mag­da­le­nefjord to land pas­sen­gers here. The num­ber of lar­ger ships has, howe­ver, drop­ped sin­ce the ban on hea­vy fuel in the­se waters ente­red force in 2014. The­se fjords are still fre­quent­ly visi­ted both by sai­ling boats and expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships. Grav­ne­set in Mag­da­le­nefjord, Vir­go­ham­na on Dan­s­køya and Smee­ren­burg on Ams­ter­damøya are some of the regu­lar­ly used landing sites in the area.

This invol­ves that some places here are among­st tho­se which suf­fer to some ext­ent from high visi­tor num­bers, and tracks beco­me visi­ble in the tun­dra.

As the west coast as well as the islands near­by are expo­sed to the wea­ther coming in from the west, con­di­ti­ons are often quite harsh and cold with wind, clouds and rain or snow.

For more detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on about Svalbard’s islands and fjords, plea­se check out the gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard.

Geo­lo­gy: Base­ment domi­na­ted by meta­mor­phic rocks (gneiss, phyl­li­te, mica schist etc). South of Smee­re­burg­fjord gra­ni­tes dating from Cale­do­ni­an oro­ge­ny (‘Horn­emann­top­pen-gra­ni­te’). Strong uplift and defor­ma­ti­on during Alpi­dic oro­ge­ny in upper Creta­ce­ous and lower Ter­tia­ry.

Recom­men­ded book for fur­ther, well-digesta­ble (real­ly!) info about geo­lo­gy and land­scape of Sval­bard.

Land­scape: Most­ly alpi­ne with steep rock­walls and high, poin­ted moun­ta­ins with gave the island ‘Spits­ber­gen’ (‘Poin­ted moun­ta­ins’) its name. The hig­hest moun­tain is the Horn­emann­top­pen south of Smeerenburgfjord/east of Mag­da­le­nefjord with 1115 met­res. Level land is limi­t­ed, the coast­li­ne is most­ly steep or cover­ed with coar­se rocks. Bea­ches are often cover­ed with huge amounts of drift­wood and, unfort­u­na­te­ly, pla­s­tic trash brought here by curr­ents (a lot from fishing fleets around the north Atlan­tic). Rocky bea­ches and mud can make wal­king dif­fi­cult. The inte­riour of the main island Spits­ber­gen is stron­gly gla­cia­ted with the so-cal­led ‘Spits­ber­gen-type gla­cier’: a net of smal­ler and lar­ger gla­ciers which are con­nec­ted to each other, but with many moun­ta­ins sti­cking out.


Smee­ren­burg­fjord. Spits­ber­gen owes its name (‘poin­ted moun­ta­ins’) to such land­scapes.

Flo­ra and Fau­na: Vege­ta­ti­on is most­ly scar­ce becau­se of the topo­gra­phy, main­ly moss beds near bird colo­nies. The lat­ter are the main fau­nal fea­ture of the area, most important are the lar­ge colo­nies of litt­le auks in dif­fe­rent places in the area. Despi­te of the bar­ren tun­dra, the­re are reinde­er, which can walk across the ice from island to island during the win­ter. Polar bears do show up regu­lar­ly, and some­ti­mes wal­rus are seen.

Little auks in northwestern Spitsbergen

Litt­le auks in nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen.

Histo­ry: This part of Sval­bard is his­to­ri­cal­ly one of the most important ones, with a num­ber of inte­res­t­ing sites. The nor­thwes­tern cor­ner of Spits­ber­gen was fre­quen­ted by wha­lers during the 17th cen­tu­ry. They came main­ly from Hol­land and Eng­land, but also from Den­mark, Ger­ma­ny and other count­ries. Remains of blub­ber ovns and gra­ves can still be seen in many places, Smee­ren­burg on Ams­ter­damøya is famous, but only one exam­p­le. Ham­burg­buk­ta south of Mag­da­le­nefjord was used by wha­lers from… whe­re was it … yes, Ham­burg.

Remains from blubber ovns from the 17th century. Smeerenburg, Amsterdamøya

Remains from blub­ber ovns from the 17th cen­tu­ry. Smee­ren­burg, Ams­ter­damøya.

In the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, arc­tic flight pio­neers Salo­mon August Andrée and Wal­ter Well­man star­ted their attempts to fly to the north pole from Vir­go­ham­na on Dan­s­køya.

Historical remains in Virgohamna: Fuel barrels from Wellman's expeditions

North pole expe­di­ti­on lef­to­vers in Vir­go­ham­na: Fuel bar­rels from Wellman’s expe­di­ti­ons.

A dra­ma hap­pen­ed in ear­ly 1922 in Kob­befjord on the west side of Dan­s­køya, when the two Nor­we­gi­ans Tor­ge­ir Møkle­by and Harald Simon­sen stran­ded here with their small boat. They were working on a wea­ther sta­ti­on on Kva­de­hu­ken at the ent­rance of the Kongsfjord and had set out to search for a trap­per who was miss­ing. After seve­ral weeks in the ice, they mana­ged to get ashore in the Kob­befjord and died after seve­ral months from star­va­ti­on, cold and exhaus­ti­on.

Horn­emann­top­pen was suc­cessful­ly clim­bed for the first time in 1931 by mem­bers of the »Öster­rei­chi­sche Spitz­ber­gen-Fahrt« with G. Machek and R. Unter­stei­ner.



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last modification: 2019-02-22 · copyright: Rolf Stange